Picasso or Plank?

Intent on proving that "modern art is rubbish," lecturer Keith Armstrong of Nottingham, United Kingdom, dragged an old piece of scarred plywood out of the trash, painted it white and entered it in an art exhibition at Nottingham University.

Impressed by Armstrong's creation entitled, "Millennium Dawn," university experts awarded the object a prize and called it "an abstract sculptural piece of work" worth more than $200.

"I only did it as a joke and it took me two minutes to paint it," Armstrong told virtual newscaster Ananova.com. "It's ridiculous."

Not so, said the university gallery's Neil Bennison. "It's a reasonable piece of art," he insisted, leaving many to wonder whether the creator's intent should determine the worth of his creation.

Source: Ananova.com

Cloak and Dumpster For an FBI search team based in New Mexico, the call to duty recently bellowed from beneath a mound of aging trash.

In Dec. 2000, agents began searching a section of the Los Alamos County, N.M., landfill for what many allege were the unauthorized tapes that led to nine months of solitary confinement for Taiwanese-American scientist Wen Ho Lee. The tapes, which Lee told authorities he had discarded in a trash bin outside the Los Alamos weapons laboratory more than one year ago, allegedly contain design information on U.S. nuclear weapons.

FBI special agent Doug Beldon would not confirm that the search was related to the Lee case but admitted, "I certainly haven't disputed it."

After consulting with Los Alamos County solid waste experts, who studied aerial photos of landfill progress and daily logs of deposited waste, the FBI decided to search more than an acre of the landfill. The bureau then submitted a health and safety plan to the state of New Mexico and hired a solid waste firm to remove the landfill's intermediate cover and cull the waste to be searched.

When two weeks of trash sifting turned up nothing, the FBI halted its efforts. "[A landfill] is a difficult venue to search," Beldon explains, adding that investigative and practical factors precipitated the halt.

Authorities now are deciding whether to resume the search, which Beldon says could extend beyond the original parameters. Only one thing is certain, he adds, "In the criminal investigation area, we can learn a lot about people by looking at what's in their trash can."

Sources: Associated Press, ABC News and Washington Post